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A UK woman who was arrested for praying silently outside an abortion clinic is speaking out about her experiences. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who is the co-director of March for Life U.K., has had several run-ins with the law after being found praying outside abortion clinics. Vaughan-Spruce went viral last year after a video surfaced of her being arrested by U.K. police for praying. In September 2022, the Birmingham City Council imposed a 150-meter (490-feet) exclusion zone outside of any abortion clinics, which forbade any form of protest or counseling, including prayer. That December, Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for the first time for praying. The case was dismissed in February, but she was arrested again for praying outside the facility in March, with video of the incident showing an officer saying, “You’ve said you’ve been engaging in prayer, which is the offense.” That case was not dismissed until September of 2023. 

Speaking to Faithwire, Vaughn-Spruce says her legal troubles have continued, with her being threatened with a fine last month for praying outside the clinic again. She said the harassment has made her feel “vulnerable.” “On one level, it has been quite stressful in as much as it almost makes you feel quite vulnerable that the people who should be protecting your freedoms are the ones who seem [to be] attempting to deprive you of them,” she said. She stated she has received support from people who agree with her beliefs and even those who don’t. “[T]hey still support my right and other people’s right to be able to pray where they want to pray — people who say that they don’t have any religious beliefs, but they still recognize that people’s own private thoughts, whether they’re directed towards their God or not, are their own business,” she said. Her arrests underscore the growing concerns of religious freedoms being targeted. U.K. has delayed nationalized abortion “buffer zones,” but it has been implemented locally. Free speech advocates say the language of the buffer zone laws makes it easy for religious freedoms to be violated. Several members of the U.S. Congress, led by Representative Chip Roy of Texas, wrote a letter to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, urging the ambassador to monitor the U.K. “The U.K. is now on an unsettling path that could potentially result in existential threats to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and even freedom of thought,” the letter began, remarking on the proposed buffer zone legislation. 

Vaughn-Spruce is not the only person to face legal troubles because of her religious beliefs. American-born street preacher Ryan Schiavo was arrested in June in Canterbury, England, for preaching at a Pride event. Schiavo claimed he wasn’t aware of the Pride event until he arrived. “It was not until we arrived and … were headed into the city that we realized that there was an actual pride event going on, and it was quite oppressive. I mean, there were rainbow flags, rainbow signage, a lot of people dressed in rainbow [colors] and rainbows painted on faces,” he told The Christian Post. Schiavo was later released, but he offered a warning to other Christians about impending persecution. “We are not living in a fair and impartial society in America or in the United Kingdom. And the last line of defense is not the political realm. It’s not the conservative media. It is the Church of Jesus Christ. And Christians have to be willing to suffer even if it means they lose their job, they lose friends, family doesn’t understand them or even if they are put in jail or beaten up or killed, etc. Because ultimately, our first responsibility is to the Lord Jesus and to the truth, not to our own satisfaction and comforts.”

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